Long Fear of River Ends with Santee
 
Historic Sites Will
Be Submerged When
Power Works Begins
Red Waters Finally
Push Inhabitants
Away from Banks
 
By F. M. Kirk
 
     Here in a community whose very existence is threatened by annihilation, uncertainty prevails and doubt as to the future disturbs what once was tranquility. The actual approach of the $37,500,000 Santee-Cooper hydro-electric development, a project that has been actively discussed for twenty-odd years, brings to the minds of St. John's residents many problems, solutions to which may determine their fate. One vital question that seriously affects this plantation country is: what plantations will be submerged, what plantations will be so water-logged as to be useless for planting purposes? 
     Under the law of eminent domain the government has the right to condemn private property for purpose considered to be for the public welfare. Yet, many landowners honestly question the lasting good and the permanent welfare to be accomplished by flooding more than two hundred square miles of private property, lands sacrificed to make a lake bed. In the meantime, they are wondering what they are going to, get for their farms and plantation, and where they are going to make their homes. 
     Plantation owners in this historic community take issue with reports that the lakes of the Santee-Cooper project will effect only barren and worthless lands. In refutation of such broad statements they point to ante-bellum plantations, many of them dating back prior to the American Revolution, some of which are still owned by descendants of the original grantees, many of which still are actively cultivated. 
     Threatened by the waters of Santee, which once attracted hardy Huguenot, and sturdy pioneers are Pond Bluff, once home of General Francis Marion; Northampton, once home of General William Moultrie; The Rocks, home of the wealthy cotton pioneer, Peter Gaillard; Pooshee, proprietary grant of the St. Julien family; Hanover, Germanic-sounding plantation of a French St. Julien, still standing after two hundred and twenty-odd years--and a score and more of others. 
* * * *
     The Rocks, under the efficient management of the Connor family, is the equal, and probably the superior, of the plantation that made cotton history in Peter Gaillard's day. General Marion's home is cultivated more intensively than it was a century ago, still owned by the family to whom it was willed by the general's widow. The broad acres of the Sinkler estate at Belvidere, adjoining Eutaw Springs, and near which is situated the race course of the St. John's Jockey club, is in a high state of Cultivation. 
     Other places, many of them, are planted. On other plantations which have long since passed out of the hands of the families that once owned them hundreds of negroes happily their small farms. In addition there are many other small farms. Northampton, with its adjoining tracts, is the valuable estate of Clarence Dillon and A M. Barnes, of New York, on which game teems in abundance. Thousands of other acres are owned or leased by Yeamans Hall and the Oakland Hunting club. 
* * * *
     By an act of 1708 that area stretching from Cooper river north-westerly to Santee was designated as St. John's parish. It was the last refuge of early settlers. Many of the first settlers built their homes deep in the swamps of Santee on the very bank of the river, as early maps by Mouzon and others show. As the up-country was developed, natural resources exploited, and forests destroyed, nature's control over the mighty river was broken.  . 
     Disastrous freshets flowed over the rich lands and destroyed the indigo and others crops. Planters were forced to build new homes out in the high lands away from the swamps. Others already had led the way, for St. Juliens, Ravenels and others already were established when the search for safety commenced. 
     Santee floods wrecked the finances of Peter Gaillard, but in Upper St. John's he accumulated an even greater fortune. and built a home for posterity. Joseph Palmer deserted his home in Pineville in St. Stephen's parish to build his house of ever-lasting cypress at Springfield. 
     Those men, and others, thought they had escaped the threat of Santee. Now their descendants must seek escape from a flood mightier than any in that red river's long history. No previous flood menaced the homes of the living and the graves of the dead. 
     Near Macbeth, close to the site of the proposed power dam, stands a cross marking the spot where was established the Huguenot church in this community almost two and a half centuries ago. The cross probably will escape the deluge. It will stand a forlorn reminder of all that lies beneath the water, a memory to those who made the long trip from France to found the homes buried beneath Santee, near which they, themselves, are buried. 
    Close to Black Oak Church runs the old Santee canal, a big, empty ditch, an ugly reminder of man's first attempt to divert Santee to Cooper, soon to be covered by an even greater attempt to accomplish the same purpose. 
* * * *
     Within the area threatened with submersion are the cemeteries of the Rocks and Black Oak Churches, and the plantation burying grounds at Pooshee, Somerton, Hanover, Mt. Pleasant, and others. The dead care but little. It is a hurt to the living to see the graves of loved ones covered. 
     People in St. John's cling with passionate devotion to the homes they love. Many live on homes where their families have lived for generations, some on plantations that have never passed out of the families of original owners. Here they are close to all they love; here they are among friends and relatives. Now they must scatter; new homes must be settled; friendships must be severed; new interests must be cultivated. One cannot help but think of the Acadian. 
     Pinopolis looks wistfully at its towering pines and wonders it they, too, must go to make way for the much-heralded progress. Unofficially, the pine here is sacred. 
    One does not have to stay long in this community to sense the uncertainty that pervades everything. One feels the resignation of many to a development whose construction they never thought would be commenced